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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Introduction to Ancient Egypt and Its Civilization by University of Pennsylvania

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About the Course

Colossal pyramids, imposing temples, golden treasures, enigmatic hieroglyphs, powerful pharaohs, strange gods, and mysterious mummies are features of Ancient Egyptian culture that have fascinated people over the millennia. The Bible refers to its gods, rulers, and pyramids. Neighboring cultures in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean wrote about its god-like kings and its seemingly endless supply of gold. The Greeks and Romans describe aspects of Egypt's culture and history. As the 19th century began, the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt highlighted the wonders of this ancient land, and public interest soared. Not long after, Champollion deciphered Egypt's hieroglyphs and paved the way for other scholars to reveal that Egyptian texts dealt with medicine, dentistry, veterinary practices, mathematics, literature, and accounting, and many other topics. Then, early in the 20th century, Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun and its fabulous contents. Exhibitions of this treasure a few decades later resulted in the world's first blockbuster, and its revival in the 21st century has kept interest alive. Join Dr. David Silverman, Professor of Egyptology at Penn, Curator in Charge of the Egyptian Section of the Penn Museum, and curator of the Tutankhamun exhibitions on a guided tour of the mysteries and wonders of this ancient land. He has developed this online course and set it in the galleries of the world famous Penn Museum. He uses many original Egyptian artifacts to illustrate his lectures as he guides students as they make their own discovery of this fascinating culture....

Top reviews


Oct 6, 2022

This was an excellent course in the history of ancient Egypt. I have always been fascinated by their culture & this course taught me many things that i was not aware of. I really enjoyed this course.


May 20, 2023

The course was very interactive and offers a tons of activities. The teacher was very nice and the teaching was very easy to understand. The assignments were a bit challenging but very interesting.

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1 - 25 of 817 Reviews for Introduction to Ancient Egypt and Its Civilization

By Jerry P

May 17, 2019

Bought both course and optional book. Enjoyed the course with some reservations as noted herein and conclude that the book is better by far. I am glad to have it as a resource while I am dabbling in Egyptology these days. Finished the course in less than a week.

It should be noted that, for the most part, this is a series of short 2-6 minute lectures delivered in "talking head" style with what has been called "negative stage presence" doing "stand and deliver" lectures read from a prompter of some kind. There is a good attempt at production quality in the video lectures.

The least enjoyable part are the accompanying lecture notes presented as ".txt" files filled with grammar, syntax and typo errors. Printed them out and read them all. "Ray" is not the spelling of either Re or Ra but it's in there. These need a complete proofreading.

The quizzes are problematic at times. I will mention only the quiz at the end of "Mummies and Mummification:" where there is a question regarding how the heart was handled during the mummification process. From the lecture and the lecture notes: "It was either left in place or removed, mummified, and then replaced in the body." This means it is an either/or but only one of these will be marked correct. I would like my quiz corrected.

Overall, I got what I came for - a fairly comprehensive overview and introduction to ancient Egypt and Its Civilization. I learned new facts, gained new insights and picked up some heretofore unknown subtleties. I enjoyed it but had to work through some unnecessary pedagogy. Glad I did it. Took about 10 hours as advertised. Evidently there is a follow up course but I will not be going forward with it. I appreciated this introductory course for what it is.

By Sylvie B

Feb 8, 2020

The presentation is monotonic, heavy in non-essential facts, and extremely rapid. Visuals are not well supported with the use of pointer. Visuals are often repeated. The richness of the Penn museum is not taken advantage with an introductory tour. The course is not well organized. There are not enough quizzes to test your knowledge. The quizzes are very difficult, especially that they come so very late after 10 videos. There is only 1 guest. Everything else is presented by the main presenter.

By Deleted A

Oct 10, 2020

This is a perfect example of the absolute worst type of old-style top-down history. If the course had been called Egypt: Pharaohs and Gods I would have been happy, but calling it an introduction to Egyptian Civilization is disingenuous. You will learn absolutely nothing about Egyptian civilization beyond its rulers. There was no information at all about the common people; how they lived day to day, what their subsistence economy was like, how children were raised, how people attended the temples. Absolutely nothing. Civilization is more than a long listing of kings and dynasties but you wouldn't know that from this course.

By Mildred D B

Jan 11, 2017

The subject matter is of great interest to me but unfortunately Dr. Silverman standing paralyzed before a projected backdrop and lecturing in a monotone doesn't do it. Too much "talking head" (actually motionless body) and too few visuals of course material. I'm sure he's a brilliant man, but an adequate lecturer he is not. If he's so shy he might just do voice-overs. I have dropped the course and will just read the book. I would not, incidentally, rate the course at an intermediate level. Beginning would be more accurate.

Onscreen videos are bad enough, being at one remove from the classroom, but onscreen videos of an immobile monotone lecturers will kill any subject.

By Deleted A

May 28, 2018

This is indeed a great course. It is very simply put and very easy to follow up.

Do join without any hesitancy if you have a genuine interest in learning about the history of ancient Egypt!

By Mrtz R

Apr 8, 2020

I am glad I took this course! I learned so much about Ancient Egypt and its society, culture, art, and mythology. Kudos to Dr. Silverman and to the University of Pennsylvania for this.

By Thom T

Apr 11, 2019

While the subject matter is very interesting I don't think it was told well or in an exciting way.

By Juan C S

Jun 25, 2018

I loved it! But why only 6 weeks? Please, make it at least 10! Dr. Silverman's lectures and book are great! I knew nothing about ancient Egypt when I started the class. Now I know the history, the symbols, their gods, the significance of mummification, the christian motifs that were "borrowed" from the egyptians and so much more. I am really thankful to Penn because two of three classes I have taken -Ancient Egypt and Roman and Greek Mythology- are from this institution. I love Penn and Coursera. Thank you.

By parmarisha

Sep 1, 2020

I loved the course very much and I always wanted to learn about the Egyptians and this course contains everything. one thing that disappointed me was that I didn't get to read sir David Silverman's book Ancient Egypt because it was not available I certainly wanted the PDF of the book but it was not available I request that the book's PDF was provided to us.

By Isabella

Nov 5, 2016

The subject is interesting, but the presentation is dry, boring, in monotonous tone. Feels like somebody is reading a text book. No pause between thoughts, no animation of any kind. I am sure, the professor is a great scholar and authority on the subject, but as a lecturer he is not that great. It is unfortunate, because I was eagerly waiting for the course.

By Janice C

Oct 2, 2020

This is my first online course. I really enjoyed the mini-lecture method along with the notes. I was able to study at my own time and pace, and take my own notes from the lecture and the n. I learned from the notes, the ability to listen more than once to the lectures, the included photos, the textbook, my own photos and books. I was able to take my own notes from the lectures and the provided notes. The whole program provided optimal learning for me. I took this course for my own pleasure and distraction from our world, national, and covid-19 events. It was a great experience for me; I hope to take more courses. I did refer several friends to THANK YOU for this opportunity.

By Rebecca R

Mar 25, 2020

First online course and I loved every moment of it! It felt really refreshing to hear some old names that I used to study as a child. Well done and thanks again for the amazing opportunity!

By Ania B

Apr 26, 2020

The pacing is well done! I would like to see some more up-to-date research, like Wilfred/a the mummy resolution, f.e. This course could easily be longer and I would love to take that!

By Simone L

May 13, 2019

A good course, marred only by occasional poor quiz questions. Problem questions were either ambiguous or, more often than not, referred to material from previous weeks or not in the course at all. Independent research was then necessary to be confident of a correct answer at first attempt. Most problems seem likely due to course editing and subsequent loss of internal referential integrity.

By G R C

Jun 27, 2017

The material in this course is of a high standard as one would expect. However, the presentation leaves much to be desired. The video transcripts need to be proofread and corrected and at least one is missing. Where errors in videos have been made, or material changed for other reasons, the video 'drop ins' are clumsy. This is only presentational, but it matters. More seriously, questions in the quiz sometimes refer to subjects that have not been taught in the lectures and don't even feature in the suggested background reading material. Some participants would find this quite disheartening . Finally, while Dr Silverman is, clearly, an eminent academic, he is not a natural presenter, reading from a script and uncomfortable on camera. Overall, while the content is very interesting, the course could do with a makeover.

By Angeliki K

Dec 16, 2016

I was actually very excited for this course, yet it disappointed me. The lectures were monotonous and stiff, I found myself watching the videos on mute with the subtitles on! (p.s. the persons who transcribed the videos should have taken the time to see and hear what they were translating since there are quite a few errors on names, locations, even simple words). I also found the lessons rather superficial, did not "dive" into the heart of this great civilization. Finally, having read a book or two on the subject, the whole experience added almost nothing to my previous knowledge on ancient Egypt. The course is good for those who have no previous knowledge on the subject and wish to learn the basics regarding Egypt, its gods, mummies etc.

By David J

Jul 23, 2020

I should have looked more carefully at the syllabus before taking this course. It gives a lot of detail about kings, gods and mummification, but nothing about the structure of ancient Egyptian civilization such as the organization of society below the kings. Nothing about how the peasants were organized, nothing about relations with neighboring civilization through the centuries It's not similar in content than, for example, the Assyria course "Organizing an Empire, the Assyrian Way," To a great extent it can be seen as a tour of the Eqypt Museum at U of Penn. It's fine if that's what you are looking for.

By Wendi S

Jun 2, 2017

While the information is interesting, the speaker is horrendous. I can't put it any nicer. He is monotonous and is obviously reading from a prompter. There is no excitement in him to make me want to be excited to learn anything new. There are breaks in his speaking as if he is waiting for the prompter to move to the next page. All he does is stand and never moves, very boring and very dry.

Some of the later lessons were a bit better. At least we saw more pictures to support the information and didn't have to watch the speaker just standing there.

By Jennifer O

Nov 12, 2016

I found listening to the instructor just read notes became very tedious very quickly. I had to force myself to finish this course which rather defeated my goal of learning for fun. The only video that engaged me was the very last one set in the artifact lab. I also feel that if you are going to offer transcriptions of the lectures, someone should proofread them. Not to do so is shoddy work and doesn't do Coursera or Penn any favors.

By Karolina D

Sep 13, 2020

The material was indeed interesting however the way of presenting it was surprisingly terrible. The manner of speech and lack of mimics and expression of the professor was disappointing and I preferred to read the script rather than watch the videos :(

By Brent H

Jun 2, 2018

Excellent course! This gave me more confidence in teaching middle school students about Ancient Egypt! Very well done and very informative. I really enjoyed this course!

By Daniela N

Jan 8, 2019

Thank you very much for this introduction! I really needed to have a starting point. It was very clear and interesting. I'll continue searching and studying, of course!

By Evelyn C

May 27, 2020

The course is well-organized with a lot of artifacts, maps, photos and other relevant materials. For the quizzes, they are quite easy to be completed with great scores. I suggest that the quiz content should be covered more details, and the answer should not always be exact words as in the lecture. It can be puzzle, more picture quiz in order to create longer memories of the students. Also, the minimum scores to get pass can be 70-80% instead of 50%. It requires the students to pay more effort in their studying. Additionally, for the suggested readings, I think it will be better if Coursera can create an optional quiz related to the readings to let the student self-test their knowledge beyond the provided lecture. Thank you very much for creating such a very useful tool for people who love Ancient Egyptian history like me!!!

By Ghadeer N

May 1, 2020

The course was nice, but very shallow.. I was expecting a deeper, richer material on such a rich topic. The illustrations and monuments were great. I hope they can make a complementary course that gives us a better insight on the ancient Egyptian culture

By David N

May 1, 2020

Good overview of major customs and architecture, but I would have liked more details on how ordinary Egyptians lived their lives.